Category Archives: work

Office under the stairs

I love my home office. It is definitely one of my favourite corners in the house. It is a small space under the stairs, but big enough to fit my desk and office furniture.

In the past I have worked:

  • from the spare bedroom but I felt isolated and disconnected – going upstairs and working from a small room next to our bedroom did not feel quite right. Besides working from home can make you feel isolated and a little bit lonely at times. Hiding in a spare room would only add to that feeling. Or it certainly did for me.
  • from a desk in my bedroom but it did not really feel like a home office but more like a teenager’s desk
  • from the kitchen table but I did not have any space to keep my stuff (paper work, files, resources and props), not to mention the inconvenience of having to clear the table before the children came back from school and then lay everything back again in the evening.

So my current work area is most definitely the best office I ever had. If you want to have a look, here it is.

It is quite versatile and I love that it is easy to keep it tidy. I keep changing the decor and colour scheme, so I never get bored of it. But I cannot do without my hand-cream and my red radio tuned either on Radio 2 or 4.

So what about you? Where in the house is your office? I’d love to hear your thoughts :)

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Lessons from running a business

I am self employed and run an education consultancy business. I work from home. I can fit my working life around the demands of raising a family and other commitments. I do the school run and can cook on a daily base. It sounds perfect, doesn’t it?

BUT…

I work most evenings. I may work in the weekends. My income is not steady, my financial responsibilities are. At times I feel isolated and lack motivation.

One thing is for sure. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

In all fairness, it has not all been a smooth ride. Quite the contrary.

Being self-employed and working from home just happened to me. I did not actively seek to embark on this journey, but given my circumstances starting a business from home was the only way forward.

I may had not realised it at the time, but setting up as a self employed was the beginning of a challenging but wonderful learning journey, both in terms of business and personal development.

So these are some of the things I have found out:

WE are our business. Our personality and passion are reflected in our services and products. In other words, our personality is our USP, the secret ingredient that makes us unique and sets us apart from other businesses that offer similar products/services.

Running a business is an one (wo)man show. We do not just sell a product or provide a service, but we tend to do a lot more peripheral work – marketing, sales, leaflet distribution, website building, copy writing, accounts. We also need to run our business, which involves planning and project management. We may be able to pay for some help but inevitably in the beginning we need to learn a wide range of skills to move forward.

Starting and subsequently running a business is not an easy task. It takes a huge step outside our comfort zone. Bear in mind though, this is probably the hardest part of the journey.

Running a business from home is tricky. Once your home becomes your workplace, the boundaries between work and family life can easily become blurred.Untangling the two takes time but is a prerequisite for eventually finding the right balance for you.

But most importantly what I was surprised to find out is that running a business is not just a business journey but a personal development exercise. Actually I am now convinced that business growth and personal development not only go hand in hand, but one feeds the other.

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Take for instance confidence (or lack of it). This is a trait that a lot of women in my networking groups cite as an issue for them. Confidence in our abilities is probably one of the main ingredients of business success. Surely, we may start with low self-confidence, but as we develop our business skills and we expand our customer base inevitably our confidence increases. Naturally, this new confidence not only benefits the business, but also reflects on our personal life. For some people this may mean making new friends or trying new hobbies. It could give us the attitude to make positive changes in our life.

So, if you are currently thinking of starting a business, think no more. Take the plunge and most likely you will emerged as a new person.

What does it take to be a good parent?

Last week I was listening to Jeremy Vine’s Radio 2 show on my way to a job interview. The show’s guest Mr Mike Buchanan, the founder of the Justice for Men and Boys political party, caught my attention immediately. He was arguing that “men and boys need representation…and I’m not aware of a single area where women are disadvantaged relative to men.” He went on to claim that it can only be women’s fault that they do not have highly paid jobs or are more likely to take part-time jobs, as they are lazy and do not like working!  He refused to recognise the responsibilities of motherhood as a major factor that holds back many mothers.

My job interview that day went pretty well, and a few days later I was offered the job.  After a few sleepless nights I had to turn down that very attractive job offer. To be precise, I had to turn down an opportunity to do my dream job, simply because it would not fit in with my family commitments. It would have required my children to attend breakfast clubs and afterschool clubs every day on top of their busy school schedule. Our family time would have shrunk to an hour and a half a day. And that includes preparing meals and having dinner. In those 90 minutes two exhausted parents should create opportunities to engage and communicate with two over exhausted children. Is 90 minutes a day enough time to get to know your children? Does this time slot provide opportunities to connect with them, create an environment of trust and establish communication channels? I do not think so.

Modern parenthood is a hard job. Children require and deserve our time, care and devotion. As parents we have the responsibility to engage with them, prepare home-cooked nutritious meals, communicate with them.  We all want to raise happy, confident and resilient individuals. But there is no magic wand to achieve this. Parenthood takes time and effort. And it is often the mothers who carry the majority of the workload. Consequently it is their lives and careers that are affected.

It used to be simpler and rather straightforward. Men would go to work and women would raise the children. This is the model that has shaped our society for years. But as the world we live in changes, the modern work place culture has certainly not caught up.  Although UK is not a bad place to be a woman, and there are certainly more opportunities for flexible working, the role and demands of modern parenthood have not been addressed. There are several reasons why women want to work – we need the stimulation; we want to earn money; to some of us working is part of our identity. Having children does not change our attitude towards work. But it certainly changes our priorities in life.

Listening to that interview on Radio 4, I felt frustrated. I found the comments of Mr Mike Buchanan laughable, if not outrageous. I am sure he is not alone in thinking that mothers are to blame for not working or for taking lower-paid jobs.  And this is probably a direct outcome of the lack of a public conversation about what it takes to be a parent and what it really requires. Parenthood requires time and clarity of mind.  Raising children is a wonderful but complex and difficult endeavour.